Sunday, July 22, 2007

Scratch

"When [Mario] Schiano moved to Rome from Naples around 1960 he found a jazz environment of cold studio professionals and well-to-do amateurs playing Trad. He didn’t care about factional fights, joining New Orleans-style bands like the Aurelian Syncopators where his presence triggered heated arguments about “purity” of style, and where he also crossed paths with Ivan Vandor. In the mid-sixties a breath of fresh air came when many avant-garde jazz players arrived in town to play or just to enjoy Roman life: Gato Barbieri, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Kent Carter, Paul Bley, and Barry Altschul stayed with friends, musicians, actors, and painters. They enjoy “La dolce vita”, jam, and bring first-hand news of what’s happening in jazz on the other side of the Ocean: Ornette, the free experiments. A parallel nomadism manifests itself with young American musicians escaping the stifling atmosphere of Darmstadt's Ferienkurses and joining forces with Lacy in Rome to form MEV: Alvin Curran, Richard Teitelbaum; with a similar perspective, Franco Evangelisti creates Nuova Consonanza (see the perceptive article by Art Lange in PoD Issue 11)."

-- Francesco Martinelli, Point of Departure

I often wish more film criticism looked like this, forming categorizations in historical strokes, seeing 'schools' not as fixed ideas but as meetings & confluences of different individuals, making every turn seem potentially interesting because it crackles with all the promises of History. This is, in fact, part of what I like about Olaf Möller as well as MHVF member James Cheney.

6 comments:

Daniel said...

Although I've read Möller in Film Comment, I'm still not quite sure what film criticism in this vein would look like. Do you know any articles online (by him or Cheney or others) that would think is in this ideal?

Zach Campbell said...

I was thinking of, OM-wise, the article he did a few years ago about independent filmmaking in Hong Kong, or on Cipri & Maresco. Do you have access to back issues of FC, Daniel, online or maybe sitting around in your apartment? (If not lemme know, I've got Word documents of both those articles I can send your way.)

James Cheney-wise, if you go to Mobius or European Film Review and just root around for posts by James Cheney, or 'C., James C.' on the latter, you'll find the writings of a guy who can identify stylistic currents--not just directorial or generic, but also with actors, composers, etc.--with ease and infectious enthusiasm. Italian cinema is his specialty. (Poster Nzoog Wahrlfhehen seems to have a similar expertise for Spanish stuff.)

What I think I'm trying to point to is a shared tendency in a work of film writing to (a) pinpoint confluences as they work through people and not only Idea-Movements [like, oh, say 'indie' or 'expressionist' or 'cyberpunk'--who are the people who are indie, where were they coming from, what are the commonalities obvious or not], (b) to record and narrate for posterity moments and movements that might lead nowhere, or might lead to places only the most hardcore fans would otherwise know about, (c) to shed light on the off-spaces, the interregna, the weirder pockets of more dominant film culture. That is, to do simultaneously journalistic or scholarly (depending on contemporaneity) and analytic work whilst having the savvy to know where to locate your information in the holes or shadowy corners of film culture ...

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Sorta like the impulse of some (I dubiously count myself among them) to act with the notion of genre-as-medium as opposed to genre-as-cycle: a genre consists of unique artifacts that continually rewrite and reconstitute the genre based on different inherited tropes and traits (but not necessarily in a chronological order). If that makes sense.

(My current training shines through again, I fear, but I hope to stand firm that this is how I've always thought of it, I've simply lacked the tools to articulate it until now...)

Zach Campbell said...

Yeah, genre as a medium of its own (a medium without specific materials--much like narrative itself*), whose chronologies don't exist as 'Genre, History Of' ... more like history, concrete individuals and real money, goes in and out of genre, uses it, pushes it, backs away from it, in turn influences it by way of creating new tropes (or immaterial materials), etc.

* It was upon realizing this, the presence of immaterial media, a few years ago that I had to revise some of my formalist ideas/leanings in a few majors ways.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Curious: what sparked your epiphany?

Me? I've said this all over the 'sphere this year: a Cavell seminar did wonders for me.

Zach Campbell said...

Oh, I don't know if I can really isolate any particulars for the epiphany--but if I think of something I'll amend.

I've still read very little Cavell. His body of work is kind of like Danto's, this great big body of writing that I keep telling myself I'll delve into "in the future." If I had a nickel for every time I told myself such things ...